Best Local Boy Gone Bad - 2002
Less than eight months ago, Thomas Abrams was the toast of the town, raking in millions as a big, swinging financier and earning respect and admiration for his foundation, which he claimed provided millions for impoverished children. Then in October, the day before he was to host a $25,000-a-plate fundraiser at the Breakers, organizers had to tell the likes of Dan Marino, Eunice Shriver, and Buzz Aldrin that the gala was off. Instead of spending the weekend at the five-star resort regaling celebrities with unsubstantiated claims that he created the X-Men comic book hero Wolverine and played fullback for the Miami Hurricanes, the man who managed 260 accounts worth $6 million from his lavish Fort Lauderdale office was busy. Seems the FBI wanted to talk to him about evidence that showed he had bilked elderly investors out of more than $20 million. Six weeks later, Abrams was arrested and charged with six counts of wire fraud, six counts of mail fraud, and three counts of money laundering. Unable to get his hands on bank accounts the feds froze, the 39-year-old was forced to cry poverty; taxpayers are now picking up the tab for his defense. But whether he's convicted or not, his life will never be the same. In March, the feds auctioned off $700,000 worth of his beloved toys and sports and historical memorabilia. Gone are dozens of autographed bats, balls, jerseys, helmets, and gloves. Gone is a signed copy of Richard Nixon's August 9, 1974, resignation and Gerald Ford's September 8, 1974, pardon. The Harley and Jag? Gone. In retrospect, his fall from grace might have been expected. After all, here's a guy who made millions yet couldn't afford a dictionary so he could correctly spell the name of his company, Pheonix Investment Management, and his charity, Pheonix Foundation for Children. But spelled correctly or not, this is one bird that will only explode in fire, never to fly high again.